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J Clin Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;71(3):270-9. doi: 10.4088/JCP.08r04516blu. Epub 2010 Jan 26.

Does inclusion of a placebo arm influence response to active antidepressant treatment in randomized controlled trials? Results from pooled and meta-analyses.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To determine if the inclusion of a placebo arm and/or the number of active comparators in antidepressant trials influences the response rates of the active medication and/or placebo.

DATA SOURCES:

Searches of MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and pharmaceutical Web sites for published trials or trials conducted but unpublished between January 1996 and October 2007.

STUDY SELECTION:

2,275 citations were reviewed, 285 studies were retrieved, and 90 were included in the analysis. Trials reporting response and/or remission rates in adult subjects treated with an antidepressant monotherapy for unipolar major depression were included.

DATA EXTRACTION:

The primary investigator recorded the number of responders and/or remitters in the intent-to-treat population of each study arm or computed these numbers using the quoted rates.

DATA SYNTHESIS:

Poisson regression analyses demonstrated that mean response rate for the active medication was higher in studies comparing 2 or more active medications without a placebo arm than in studies comparing 2 or more active medications with a placebo arm (65.4% vs 57.7%, P < .0001) or in studies comparing only 1 active medication with placebo (65.4% vs 51.7%, P = .0005). Mean response rate for placebo was significantly lower in studies comparing 1 rather than 2 or more active medications (34.3% vs 44.6%, P = .003). Mean remission rates followed a similar pattern. Meta-analysis confirmed results from the pooled analysis.

CONCLUSIONS:

These data suggest that antidepressant response rates in randomized control trials may be influenced by the presence of a placebo arm and by the number of treatment arms and that placebo response rates may be influenced by the number of active treatment arms in a study.

PMID:
20122371
DOI:
10.4088/JCP.08r04516blu
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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